The Telegraph is reporting that the World Health Organization will be updating its definition of "infertile" to include single men and women with no medical issues who have been unable to find a suitable sexual partner or sufficient sexual relationships which could achieve conception. Previously, men and women had to demonstrate 12 months of unprotected sex without conception to classify as infertile.
This may seem like a simple shift, and one that could even have the added benefit of giving gay men and women the same priority access to in vitro fertilization resources as heterosexual couples. But not everyone is happy about taking social conditions into account when changing global medical standards, especially those that could alter access to public healthcare funds.
The Need for Change
One of the authors of the new standards, the WHO's Dr. David Adamson, explained expanding the scope of infertility:
"The definition of infertility is now written in such a way that it includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women. It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual's got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It's a big change."
The change is especially big for countries with government-funded healthcare or public funding for fertility treatments, including IVF, who may now be required to provide coverage for far more people. "It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should have access to healthcare," Dr. Adamson said. "It sets an international legal standard. Countries are bound by it."
The Impact of Change
The American Disabilities Act does not specifically name each and every impairment that's covered under the Act. Instead, a person is defined as having a disability if they have "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities ... a history or record of such an impairment, or ... is perceived by others as having such an impairment." For almost all parents, having a child is a major life activity, and infertility is an impairment for those unable to have children.
And although they have yet to be finalized, the new WHO guidelines on infertility could apply. Only time will tell whether insurers must give the same access to IVF therapy to single wannabe parents as heterosexual couples.